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The local word for cloud is ský, rotten shark meat is considered a delicacy and Ketill, meaning ‘kettle’, is a popular boys’ name. It’s life through the looking glass – welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Iceland. Here mossy lava plains meet bare orange mountains, geysers and the largest desert in Europe, all surrounded by the cold expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, which stretches on towards Greenland.
The country’s location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has generated an otherworldly landscape where nature is forever active with volcanoes, earthquakes and hot springs. The capital is earth-shaking in its own way, with a young, vibrant population that creatively reimagines the country’s past through art, fashion and music. Beyond Reykjavík is a whole new world of lava fields, fjords and glaciers.
Visit the national park, Þingvellir, to see geology in action as tectonic plates tear apart from each other; gaze with wonder at the shifting colours of the magical Northern Lights; be captivated by the original geyser, or just lie back and relax in the world-famous Blue Lagoon, a steaming pool of opaque turquoise water that leaches health-giving minerals from the lava bed. Geothermal energy provides Iceland with everything from electricity to hot water; it has even been used to heat a section of the North Atlantic so that Icelanders can relax at the beach without catching a chill.
Iceland was first settled in AD 874-7, when Ingólfur Arnarson landed here to escape the tyranny of Norwegian King Harald Finehair. There followed the Age of Settlement, when the uninhabited areas of the country were claimed and settled. By AD 930 AD, when the independent Icelandic Commonwealth and its parliament were established, the population was around 60,000. The following century is known as the ‘Saga Age’, a period of national growth when the heroic events celebrated in the sagas unfolded.
More than a collection of old stories glorifying the Viking past, the Icelandic sagas are works of medieval art, the cornerstone of the country’s culture and a piece of living history. As well as providing us with epic stories of raids, attacks, revenge and buried treasure, these calfskin manuscripts have also lovingly preserved familial bonds through their genealogies and have given Icelanders a full documentation of their history from the first settler onwards.
Places of interest in Iceland
Reykjavík cherishes its position as the northernmost capital city in the world, out of reach of convention. Being so...
Activities in Iceland
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